Terrorist groups are not getting many foreign volunteers anymore. The popularity of Islamic terrorism, in the Moslem world, has sharply declined over the last few years, and with that it was no longer fashionable for young men to go to Iraq and die as suicide bombers. Iraqi men are not too keen on self-destructive attacks either, so the terrorists have been recruiting women and teenagers (as young as 14), as well as those with mental problems (that make them easy to manipulate). The remaining terrorist groups have one of two goals. The terrorists in western Iraq, and heavily Sunni Arab areas elsewhere, attack government officials and Sunni Arab leaders that are cooperating with the army and police. Other terrorist cells are still trying to revive a religious war between Sunni and Shia Arabs by attacking Shia and Sunni Arab civilians, as well as Sunni Arab politicians who back democracy and peace.
The increased construction in Iraq is uncovering more weapons caches. One found last week in the south, contained several thousand 82mm mortar shells. This cache, and many others, date back to Saddam's rule, where it was government policy to hide weapons and munitions all over the place. These secret weapons storage sites were to provide Saddam's secret police with resources in an emergency (when their known bases might be under attack or, as it turned out, for a terrorism campaign in the event that the country was conquered and occupied, or dominated by a Shia government.)
An effort to get five Britons, kidnapped two years ago by pro-Iranian Shia terrorists, freed has apparently failed. The government freed one of the terrorist group (Asaib ahl al Haq, or AAH, or League of the Righteous) leaders, as a goodwill gesture towards getting the five Britons cut free. The man released, was also believed responsible for killing five American soldiers. The hostage exchange effort didn't work, as AAH demanded that all Shia terrorists be freed. The government will not do that, and threatens to come after all the Shia terrorist groups, even if this gets the five British hostages killed. Some believe that the five are already dead.
The police have established their own DNA testing lab, and have also overcome the Arab distaste for dogs (who are considered "unclean") by establishing a bomb sniffing dog detachment, with over 60 dogs, and their Iraqi handlers. The Iraqis have seen how successful the Americans were using the bomb sniffing dogs. Iraq imported the trained dogs from the United States and South Africa.
Despite these signs of professionalism, the half million soldiers and police are also being used by politicians for financial and political gain. Officers commissions are sold, or given out to party loyalists. Commanders are forced to take these officers, who are untrained, and there just to do what their political patrons want. This is nothing new in Iraq, or the Middle East, but it causes problems as U.S. troops pull out of areas, like Mosul, where local militias are still fighting each other. Corruption up there has led to many units being under strength (in reality, while the payroll records show everyone present, the commander pockets the pay of the phantom soldiers), or poorly armed (weapons and ammo are sold by commanders, often to militias he might be called on to fight.) The corruption is worst in Mosul, because Arab and Kurdish factions are fighting for control of the city, and the nearby oil fields. So the political parties are pulling strings to fill police and army units with politically loyal officers. At the same time, U.S. troops are turning over dozens of bases in the area, as American troops move back to rural bases by the end of the month. The army and police don't believe they can stop the ethnic militias from turning Mosul into a war zone. But the government has some elite commando units they can send in, and some senior army commanders believe a crises up there would allow them to clean out the political appointees and clean up a lot of the corruption. All will be revealed by next month. For Mosul, Summer in the city is not going to be pretty.
While Sunni and Shia Arabs can agree on the need to go after al Qaeda, the disputes over real estate and oil still divide them. The Sunnis want a share of the oil money. But the Shia, who got nothing for decades, are not inclined to be generous. There is some agreement among Arabs over the need to prevent the Kurds (who are not Arabs) from gaining control of the northern oil fields (which produce about a third of Iraq's oil). Welcome to the Middle East.
June 14, 2009: Six Sunni Arab militiamen were killed in an ambush near the Iranian border north of Baghdad. Another attack north of the city left one Sunni Arab militiaman dead and three wounded. The growing violence against Sunni Arab militiamen is believed related to the recent bombing of a Shia market down south.
June 12, 2009: A leading Sunni Arab politician (Harith al Obeidi) was murdered outside a mosque after religious services, by a teenage assassin (who was killed by security personnel). Obeidi is the head of the largest Sunni Arab block in parliament, and this killing is believed retaliation for yesterday's terrorist bombing down south.
June 11, 2009: A car bomb went off in a largely Shia market in the south, leaving nearly 40 dead and nearly fifty wounded.
June 8, 2009: The Baghdad curfew has been shortened again, by an hour, to Midnight-4 AM. The police expect the curfew to remain in place for another few years, or until the crime and terrorism problems are brought under control.
June 7, 2009: For the last two days, Turkish warplanes and artillery have been hitting Kurdish separatist (PKK) targets in the north. This triggered forest fires, which upset the Kurdish local government (which otherwise tolerates the Turkish military activity.)